Q: Mariana, you are frequently drawn to Venice and have led many Smithsonian Journeys there. Why is it one of your favorite destinations?
A: Venice is a repository of wonders, and whether flooded or not, Piazza San Marco never ceases to amaze the visitor who walks through a sea of pigeons towards what once was the seat of government—the Doges Palace. No cars can be heard because everything, from everyday chores to a funeral procession, is done by boat. Tourists and Venetians alike cope and wonder but never fail to acknowledge its magical beauty. One of my favorite times in Venice was when glass artist Dale Chihuly had an exhibition called "Chihuly over Venice." What an amazing sight that was—his glass chandeliers hung over the canals and filled the sky with majestic colors and different transparencies! I was enchanted in a similar way when I laid eyes on Jeff Koons' Hanging Heart during the last Biennale in Venice.
Q: Every two years in June, Venice is host to the incredible art extravaganza known as the Biennale. What makes Venice the perfect place for this event and what is the purpose of it?
A: Venice's museums and churches showcase an abundance of works by Titian, who revolutionized the oil technique with his free and expressive brushwork, and Tintoretto, whose greatest works are the vast series of paintings he did for the Scuola di San Rocco. Here in Venice, in the presence of splendid Renaissance art and architecture, the 53rd Venice Biennale will take place. The mission of this event has remained the same since 1895: "to promote the most noble activities of the modern spirit without distinction of country."
Q: What compels you to attend the Biennale every chance you get?
A: Two years ago the Turkish, Romanian, and Canadian pavilions were a hit. This year the anticipation grew stronger when it was indicated that Montenegro, Pakistan, and the United Arab Emirates will show for the first time in the history of this event. In addition, the Vatican proposed to show art works which will make the connection between the Church and contemporary art.
Q: What other unique experiences does the Venice Biennale offer to the visitor?
A: In addition to seeing some of the world's most cutting edge contemporary art, it is a time when concerts can be heard everywhere, and La Fenice, the newly refurbished opera house, resonates like never before. Traditional art venues such as the Guggenheim, Palazzo Grassi, and Accademia will provide opportunities to view old and new masterpieces well into the night. During the Biennale, Venice becomes the unforgettable party of the year, when young and old alike can marvel at how the "sinking city" has once again proven its ability to stay afloat, while giving artists the opportunity to be heard.